By Mike Beamish, Vancouver Sun May 5, 2013
VANCOUVER — With the third overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, the Miami Dolphins selected Dion Jordan, a defensive end from the Oregon Ducks who might be an answer to a growing question: How can teams cope with the new wave of option quarterbacks entering the pro game?
Athletic QBs — Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers, Cam Newton of the Panthers, Robert Griffin III of the Redskins, etc. — require dramatic changes in the defences that cope with them. Football is a game of move and counter-move. Thus, coordinators are looking for defenders with sweet feet and the physical tools to slow the tide of Kaepernicks, Newtons and Griffins washing over the league and turning the NFL game into barn-burning contests.
Is Boseko Lokombo one of them?
The senior linebacker from Oregon believes he is.
“Maybe my production isn’t as high as a lot of people would want, but I’m a first-round type guy,” Boseko told The Vancouver Sun.” I could be top five, even No. 1. The sky’s the limit.”
Understand, the graduate of WJ Mouat secondary school in Abbotsford is not talking about “top five” in Monday’s Canadian Football League draft. He’s projecting to next year’s graduation, at Radio City Music Hall in New York, where he expects to get the obligatory “Welcome, bro” hug from NFL commissioner Roger Goddell as a first rounder in the 2014 draft.
Lokombo has been the top-ranked player in two of the three draft rankings put out by the CFL since last September, even though he still has his senior year at Oregon left. He will likely go early Monday anyway, yet there will be a good layer of uncertainty behind the pick. He could end up being an O. J. Atogwe (2004) or a Danny Watkins (2010), two first-round picks by the B.C. Lions the CFL team probably will never see. Both got drafted by NFL teams a year after the Lions claimed them.
While he remains “curious” about the CFL draft, and regards Canada as a fallback option, Lokombo wants to be part of the defensive revolution in the NFL precipitated by the changing offensive styles.
“People who recognize my skill say I have the ability to play with the best, and the NFL is the best league,” Lokombo said. “It’s where I want to end up. Of course, anything can happen, and injuries are out of your control. If something should happen, and it doesn’t work out, the CFL is always there.”
For all the notoriety Oregon’s high-octane offence received in Chip Kelly’s system, who could blame the defence for feeling a little left out?
The fact is, last season was historically one of the Pac-12 power’s best on defence, and people noticed. Jordan was drafted in the first round by the Dolphins, inside linebacker Kiko Alonso went in the second round to the Bills, middle linebacker Michael Clay was signed by the Dolphins and defensive tackle Isaac Remington by the Eagles.
With Clay and Alonso gone, that leaves Lokombo as the sole returning starter in Oregon’s linebacking corps. Entering his fourth year, he wants to take his game to another level in 2013. He’s also hoping for a slight change in defensive philosophy at Oregon that might boost his draft status.
Under Kelly (now the head coach in Philadelphia), the Ducks rotated defenders to keep them fresh and the tempo high, much like a hockey team.
But splitting snaps doesn’t translate to big tackle or sack numbers. Jordan, for instance, had five sacks as a premier edge rusher last season — though the pro game is not always about individual stats but the ability to affect and limit the passing/running game.
“Dion had five sacks, yet he still went third overall,” Lokombo said. “That inspires and motivates me to be even better. I have to stay injury-free, play smart and increase my production. I wasn’t playing every down last year, and it’s one thing I hope will change so my numbers won’t hurt my draft stock. I want to have a breakout year and go from there.”
So, is Lokombo the type of NFL prospect who will be in demand, the way the game is evolving?
“I think Bo has all the fundamentals, skill set and smarts to succeed in the CFL,” said draft guru Kent Ridley, of Ridley Scouting Services. “I’m not as convinced that he’ll be as ideal in the NFL. Bo ran a 4.88 during his third year at Oregon when they did winter timing. I’ve been more lukewarm on Bo than some others.”
Other draftniks counter by pointing out Lokombo’s NFL size (6’3, 225), power, instincts and credible speed (more typically in the 4.5-4.7 range). They suggest that whatever CFL team drafts him will have to make peace with the gamble, since he could be another Atogwe.
NFL stud or future CFL star?
The answer is still a year away.
• Predicting 2013 CFL Draft Top 10
1. Hamilton — Linden Gaydosh, DE, Calgary — Peace River farm boy is popular choice for first overall.
2. Winnipeg — Ben D’Aguilar, DE/LB, McMaster — Will make better transition to CFL coming off the edge.
3. Montreal — Matt Sewell, OT, McMaster — Team that lines up five non-imports on O-line can’t overlook this guy.
4. Saskatchewan — Andy Mulumba, DE, Eastern Michigan — Perhaps he falls because of Green Bay’s interest.
5. Montreal — Bo Lokombo, LB, Oregon — A gamble, since Lokombo is a solid prospect eligible for 2014 NFL draft.
6. B.C. — Corey Watman, OG, Eastern Michigan — Watman and Matt Norman could play together in B.C. for a long time.
7. Calgary — Brent Urban, DT, Virginia — At 6’7”, 290, Mississauga, Ont. native is a 2013 version of Doug Brown.
8. Toronto — Jesse Joseph, DE, Connecticut — Quebec native was first true freshman to start on defence in Huskies’ history.
9. Ottawa — Brander Craighead, OT, UTEP — Ottawa region product has started 23 of past 24 games for the Miners.
10. Edmonton — Hunter Steward, OT, Liberty — Went from rotational D-lineman to OL where he made 11 starts at LT in 2012.
Rankings and comments by Kent Ridley of Ridley Scouting Services.